Escaping the Rat Race is a term that conjures up images of an unfortunate rodent scurrying on a wheel. It strives but never arrives.
We can all feel like that rat some times, trapped in a seemingly endless and pointless pursuit that is devoid of any real meaning.
The obvious answer is to up sticks and leave (and go write poetry by the sea or join an ashram in India,) but that is usually not a practical option in the short-term. So what is?
You will never escape the rat race unless you believe that your life could be different. You have to get curious about what is possible for you. Unfortunately, if you cannot drop the cynicism and scepticism (they are self-protection mechanisms anyway that are ultimately rooted in fear) and shake off the helplessness, then you truly are trapped. If you are not even willing to question the status quo, nothing will change.
The sad truth is that the reason so many people feel stuck in the rat race is that they have given up on their dreams. Before you can draft a successful escape plan you have to see beyond your current reality. You have to start dreaming again.
What would you like your life to be like? How would you love to spend your days? (A lotto win is a lazy response and hardly an escape plan you can rely on.)
As ever when thinking about goals, dreams and ambitions, listen to your gut instinct. I’ve not met anyone yet who doesn’t have an inkling deep down of something they would love to do, or at least try.
At first, park the ‘how’ and focus on the ‘what.’ What do you want? The ‘how’ to achieve it comes later. If you think about it if you cannot envisage an alternative future, how can you take steps towards it? So, allow yourself to dream just a little and remember as Walt Disney said ‘our dreams are just previews of life’s coming attractions.’
Many people die a little more on the inside every day whilst stuck in traffic commuting to a job which at best they tolerate. Escaping the rat race is not always about radical changes, it’s about adjusting how we view our lives. Like a pair of binoculars that have gone out of focus, rather than viewing your current situation through a lens of fear or scarcity, how could you view your current circumstances through the lens of gratitude and appreciation?
For me, the phrase ‘fuelling your soul’ sums up beautifully those activities, those moments that simply make us feel alive. It is worth connecting with them more consciously, to resource and even inspires ourselves.
Think back over the last few months, when were you happiest, when did you feel most alive? I would venture that many of these occasions didn’t involve handing over big amounts of cash. Here are some of the ways I fuel my soul.
The rat race is exhausting. If you have to stay in it for at least the short-term, then you need to know how to resource yourself.
We all know the phrase if nothing changes everything stays the same. Whilst some clients I work within this area make radical changes in their lives, most people take small, regular steps which over time lead to the changes they seek.
Sometimes this involves consciously spending more time pursuing a hobby at the weekend. Sometimes it means getting a new business off the ground by working on it at night. It might mean doing some research, having new conversations with people or volunteering to gain experience, but the point is you are leaning into something new and different.
Many people feel they have sold-out, doing work that isn’t meaningful to them. They feel like the rat, enslaved by financial commitments, routine and the burdens of everyday life. As adult humans we have one advantage over the rat, we have a choice and free will. We can choose how we view our current situation.
We can choose to stay on the wheel or we can choose to put effort into something different. We start by getting curious, by dreaming, by ceasing to bury our hearts desires and by balancing our need for security and approval with just a modicum of courage.
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